California Autos Examiner

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

GM / Chrysler bankruptcies: What of the victims?

Amanda Dinnigan was left a quadriplegic after an accident

In the case of automaker bankruptcies, the plights of bond and stock holders, dealers, consumers, employees and retirees have been well covered. One group that I hadn't even considered are those who are seeking a judgment against the manufacturer. Perhaps a piece of safety equipment failed or the owner felt that their car's design was not adequate to protect them in a given scenario. Now with Chrysler's bankruptcy and a GM bankruptcy looking all the more likely, claimants are getting very nervous.

"With Chrysler, they're not only seeking to extinguish all the known claims, but also extinguish those cases of injuries and deaths that have occurred but no one has filed a suit yet," said lawyer Larry Coben.

While it is too late for those 300 or so people with a case against Chrysler to avoid their fate as a lowly ranked creditor, there are approximately 1,200 people suing GM and they are feeling the push to reach a settlement before bankruptcy is declared. Of course, there is no guarantee to that those with a settlement will see any money, it would likely be easier for them to recover something as opposed to those who did not settle in time.

I always get a queasy feeling when talking about lawsuits. I have this mental image of people digging for dollars, but we live in an imperfect world and there are valid claims that deserve to be paid. An automotive-related injury can level staggering medical bills and those claimants relying upon a settlement to cover those costs could end up empty handed. There is a move afoot to setup a "victims compensation fund" as was done after 9/11. It's unclear at this time how much traction such an initiative has in Congress.

For more info: Check out this NY Daily News story.

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